Originally created 08/09/99

Talk of settlement spoils Alabama's day



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A confident Mike DuBose opened Alabama's season on Sunday, warmly greeting his incoming freshmen and showing no signs of stress in the wake of the school settling a sexual harassment claim against him.

The third-year Alabama coach, who also was celebrating his 24th wedding anniversary Sunday, admitted last Thursday to lying to school officials and the public about his personal life. The admission came only after the school paid $350,000 to another employee to settle claims against him.

DuBose, arguably the most recognized public official in the state, had stayed low-key since the announcement, but finally made himself available to answer questions on Sunday.

"We made some mistakes, we've admitted those and moved forward," he said. "It's my anniversary today, we've been married 24 years and she's a very strong lady and I'm a strong man. Things are good."

And as he welcomed 24 scholarship freshmen and two invited walk-ons to campus, it almost seemed like things at Alabama were back to normal.

This year's highly anticipated class, considered DuBose's strongest, seemed anxious to talk only about football on Sunday.

"People make mistakes and I don't think his is even relevant to football," freshman fullback Jeremy Walker said.

"I have prayed for coach DuBose and I know that what he did won't affect the team," freshman receiver Brandon Greer said. "It just needs to be let go because he knows he did wrong."

DuBose said he would discuss the situation in a team meeting when the varsity players report on Tuesday because "they deserve to have it addressed."

Alabama assistant head coach Ronnie Cottrell said 10 "prominent" seniors stopped by the football offices on Friday to show their support for DuBose, and said he had yet to hear a player voice any negativity toward the coach.

"Someone said to me this situation will either pull us together or tear us apart," Cottrell said. "I think it has already started to pull us together."

It's the public -- and even some members of Alabama's administration -- that have been divided.

More than 1,000 people responded to the Mobile Register's call-in poll, and only a slight majority of those, 518-487, felt DuBose should remain Alabama's coach.

The Birmingham News dedicated nearly a full page Sunday to reader letters concerning the DuBose scandal, and a majority of the responses were negative.

"With DuBose at the helm, this is going to be a major distraction to the team," wrote Frank Beall of Anniston.

Alabama President Andrew Sorenson said he considered firing DuBose, but "the decision was made to try to reach a settlement and, by definition, that is engaging in the art of a compromise."

But some people feel the damage has already been done, and by a coach who has long stressed strong moral ethics and values.

He talked about those qualities again on Sunday when he said this year's recruiting class had "tremendous character." He avoided talking about his own.

"I don't think I've ever been as excited about coming to work as I am right now. I don't think I've even been as excited about going home," DuBose said. "We've made mistakes, but we're going to move on from this."